“Der bewegte Mann” is Germany’s funniest date movie in a long time and, like its hero, does a risky balancing act between the sexes. Though based on two gay comic books by cult cartoonist Ralf Koenig, this romantic comedy is angled toward heterosexual couples. Film was hugely successful in Germany and has plenty of international potential.
Title refers to a man who can be “moved” (bewegt) back and forth across the line of sexual orientation. The main character, Axel (Til Schweiger), is such a man, a macho hunk who’s cheated one too many times on g.f. Doro (Katja Riemann). When Doro throws him out of the house, the only place he can find to stay is the apartment of homosexual Norbert (Joachim Krol).
Norbert wants Axel badly, but he’s much too shy to make any obvious moves, preferring to suffer under Axel’s insensitivity. Doro, however, picks up right away on what’s going on and panics that Axel is really gay. Even when she discovers she’s pregnant and takes Axel back to marry him, her suspicions continue.
Film has an uneven feel that derives from being based on two separate comic books, each with its own climax. Several episodes are fine on their own terms — like Norbert showing up in drag at Axel’s wedding, Axel hiring Norbert’s apartment to have sex with another woman when Doro is heavily pregnant, and Doro finding him in Norbert’s apartment naked — but what makes the film work is its dry, sophisticated dialogue, taken almost word for word from the originals.
The comics’ gay perspective has been “straightened” for the movie, with Axel no longer sexually undecided but simply a naive fish out of water exploring the bizarre environment of his new landlord. However, the script’s incidental comments on men and sex from a largely gay vantage point are insightful. Koenig’s dialogue has a quality that also allows his many women readers (and filmgoers) to feel like eavesdroppers, listening to men talk about men in a blatantly sexual way.
Schweiger makes a handsome lead, but that’s almost all he does. The show is stolen by Katja Riemann (from “Making Up!”), who shows strong camera presence as Doro, and most of all by Krol (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”) as Norbert, whose sad, puppy-dog face would break the heart of even the biggest homophobe. Rufus Beck is perfect as Norbert’s cross-dressing, screechy friend Walter/Waltraud.
Fine lensing by Gernot Roll gives the pic a comfortable, classy warmth and the Palast Orchester with vocalist Max Raabe provides a Fred Astaire class with songs from the ’20s and ’30s (currently in vogue in Germany).
Soenke Wortmann’s direction is tight and pro, with a feel for holding and manipulating his audience’s attention. Since leaping to fame with the 1992 “Alone Among Women,” young turk Wortmann has badly needed another hit. This is it.